Tech UPTechnologyThe atomic bomb accidentally created an unknown quasicrystal

The atomic bomb accidentally created an unknown quasicrystal

On July 16, 1945, at the Alamogordo test range (New Mexico) the detonation of Trinity took place, the first nuclear bomb in history. More than seventy decades have passed since that, and now a team of scientists has identified an unusual material that was created by accident as a result of that explosion.

As reported in the journal Nature , the researchers identified a large amount of greenish material formed from the liquefaction of desert sand and that was baptized as trinitite. Now, since the plutonium bomb had been detonated on a 30-meter-high tower filled with sensors and cables, part of the trinitite formed had reddish inclusions, the product of a fusion of natural material with the copper of the transmission lines. . The researchers, publishing their results in the journal PNAS , thought that this was a good place to look for c uasicrystals, a type of material that violates the rules of crystallographic symmetry commonly applied to ordinary or periodic crystals and that it has unique properties.

Quasicrystals, which were described in the 1980s, have been found in samples from meteorites and have also been manufactured in the laboratory, but this would be, to date, the first that we know of that has been created artificially (and totally casual).

In 1982, scientist Daniel Shechtman first described this type of impossible symmetry in a synthetic alloy and, although it was first widely questioned by his counterparts, the finding earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2011. His experimental data validated the physicist’s predictions. theorist Paul Steinhardt, author of the present work. His team also found, years later, the first naturally occurring icosahedrite in the fragments of a meteorite recovered in eastern Siberia.

This is the new quasicrystal

As reported in Nature , the newly discovered quasicrystal has the same type of icosahedral symmetry as that of Shechtman’s original discovery and, for experts in the field, what is striking is that these types of materials are so rare in nature.

The authors suggest that quasicrystals could be used to do a kind of ‘nuclear forensic science’, because they could help reveal sites where covert nuclear tests have been done. On the other hand, it must be taken into account that quasicrystals can also be found in other types of materials formed under violent conditions, such as when lightning strikes rocks, sand or other sediments.

Reference: Binder, L. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. Https:// USA (2021).


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